New York Rangers Who Need to Take Next Step in 2014-15

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor IJuly 8, 2014

New York Rangers Who Need to Take Next Step in 2014-15

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    Scott Levy/Getty Images

    The New York Rangers went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013-14, but they can't rest on their laurels. The Blueshirts had their greatest season since the 1993-94 squad won the Cup, and they will need to take another step forward during the 2014-15 campaign.

    Rick Nash is a player most would expect to see on here because of his poor postseason showing, but during the regular season, he has scored 30 or more goals, or has been on pace to score 30 during all but one season of his career.

    He isn't the type of player that will be featured. Instead, players who can improve their game in an enhanced role this season will be showcased.

    The Rangers have added some players, they will be without some players and they will look to returning players to elevate their play in order to make 2014-15 a memorable season. There are a number of players who are coming off good campaigns, but here are some players who need to take the next step in 2014-15.

    Statistics used via Extra Skater and Hockey-Reference.

5. Chris Kreider

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    Chris Kreider is an impressive player who stands 6'3" and weighs 226 pounds, and he is an amazing skater with blazing speed. 2013-14 was a rookie season that Kreider will look to improve on, as the young winger tallied 17 goals and 20 assists for 37 points in 66 games.

    Kreider followed up a strong regular season with a great playoff performance, and he finished with five goals and eight assists for 13 points in 15 games.

    2014-15 is going to be a season in which Kreider could be looked upon to be a top offensive threat, because he finally has enough experience to understand what it takes to be an NHL player.

    He was good in 2013-14, but he will need to be great next season if the Rangers want to make it back to the Cup Final.

4. Derick Brassard

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    The departure of Brad Richards means that a center is going to have to step up and replace his 50-point production, and Derick Brassard is a player who will be looked at as the prime candidate for that role.

    Brassard's Corsi rating, via Extra Skater, was better during the playoffs than Richards', and that is something that should give Ranger fans a sense of confidence.

    Brassard finished the regular season with a career high in goals scored (18), tied for the second-most assists he's recorded in a single season (27) and finished with his second-highest points total (45).

    He showed great growth during his first full season as a New York Ranger, and there is reason to believe he can take it to a new level in 2014-15. As long as he is back with his favorite winger, Mats Zuccarello, there is no reason why the talented center should take a step back next season.

3. Carl Hagelin

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    Carl Hagelin is coming off a brilliant 2013-14 campaign in which he tallied 17 goals and added 16 assists for 33 points in a third-line role.

    He will have a chance to move up to the second line in the upcoming season, or he could potentially play alongside future Hall of Fame winger Martin St. Louis. If that should be the case, there would be no reason why Hagelin shouldn't take the next step in 2014-15.

    In the playoffs, he tallied seven goals and five assists for 12 points and looked like he was on the verge of breaking out.

    He has always been known for his speed and strong defensive game, but the 25-year-old Swede will be expected to raise his game in the upcoming season in the final year of his contract.

    Hagelin showed he could be a solid offensive player, and pushing for a 20-20 season (or better) could be looked at as a massive success in 2014-15.

2. Kevin Klein

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Kevin Klein is one defender who is going to be looked upon to elevate his game in 2014-15. Klein was average after being acquired from the Nashville Predators, and he will need to play a bigger role in the absence of Anton Stralman.

    Although it appeared like Klein was a solid player during the regular season, his 13:17 of average ice time during the playoffs shows that he was extremely sheltered. 

    It appears Dan Boyle will replace Stralman on the second pairing, but look for head coach Alain Vigneault to deploy Klein is defensive-zone situations. Klein will also be used heavily on the penalty kill, and that is an area he has done well in, according to this chart tweeted out by Twitter user Dom G.

    If Klein can step up and fill the void left by Stralman, that will make it a lot easier for Boyle to excel offensively at even strength and on the power play. Klein was a good defender with the Predators, and it is fair to say that he should be able to step up his game next season for the Rangers.

1. J.T. Miller

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    Expectations are high for J.T. Miller in 2014-15, and management is looking for him to be a player who can step in and make a difference. Glen Sather met with the media at the NHL draft, and here is what the general manager had to say.

    Via NBC Pro Hockey Talk:

    We expect Miller to come and play this year,” he said. “He probably would’ve played throughout the playoffs if he hadn’t had his separated shoulder. He’s young. He fits into the price range. He’s going to develop into becoming a very good hockey player. He had a lot of growth this year, and did well.

    Miller is a 6'1" and 205-pound center with some upside, but he is under pressure to perform. He's looked average during his few stints with the team, and that even led to criticisms of Miller from head coach Alain Vigneault.

    Vigneault had this to say about Miller, via Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post“He just hasn’t earned the right to be at this level on a regular basis. He needs to show more commitment on the ice and off. Until he does that, he hasn’t earned the right.”

    Miller has the size, tools and smarts to be an NHL hockey player. He has shown flashes of offensive brilliance and will be looked upon to take the next step in 2014-15.